The fall harvest season has been almost unbelievable in the Upper Midwest during the last few days of September and the entire month of October to this point. Since the record-setting rainfall event in southern Minnesota on Sept. 22 and 23, the weather conditions have almost perfect for harvesting, with a long string of warm, sunny days, and almost no precipitation. As a result of this ideal weather, soybean harvest  is virtually completed in all areas, except for some very wet fields, or low lying, poorly drained areas of some fields. Corn harvest  has also progressed rapidly in most portions of the region, being well over 50% completed in many locations, as of Oct. 18. About the only parts of the region where corn harvest is lagging a bit behind that pace are areas of southern Minnesota that received 10-13 in. of rain during the two-day storm in September.
Overall, most reported soybean yields are better than average, but some whole-field yields are a bit disappointing, due to the lost acres from the heavy rains across the region in late June, and again in September. It was not unusual, to hear of yield monitor and weigh wagon yields in southern and western Minnesota that were well above 60 bu./acre, with a few even eclipsing 70 bu. Producers who were fortunate enough to avoid the heavy rains and hail associated with the severe storms in June and September had some whole-field yields in the 54-60-bu./acre range, or even a bit higher. However, many producers in southern Minnesota who were impacted by the storms lost 10-20% of their yield potential, ending up with whole-field soybean yields of 46-53 bu./acre, which is average to slightly above average for most growers.
Corn yields this year across the region have been much more variable than the soybean yields. There have been whole-field yield reports of well over 200 bu./acre; however, there have also been yield reports of 170-180 bu. in the same general area. Differences in planting date, crop rotation, rainfall amount, drainage, storm damage and corn hybrid likely account for those differences; however, there has not been a lot of consistencies to the differences. When the 2010 corn harvest is complete, most farm operators in southern Minnesota will likely end up with corn yields that are average to slightly above average, but well below the yield expectations that existed in late summer. Producers in portions of west-central Minnesota are experiencing some of their best corn yields ever.
The good news for all producers regarding the 2010 corn harvest is the low harvest moisture of the corn coming out of the field, and the high quality of the corn. Most of the corn harvested in south-central Minnesota in the past two weeks has been at 14-17% moisture, meaning it can go directly to farm grain bins without additional drying, or can be hauled to grain warehouses with very little price dockage for excess kernel moisture. Most of the corn harvested had a test weight of 57-60 lbs./bu. – well above the standard test weight of 56 lbs.
By comparison, in mid-October 2009, most corn was harvested at 25-30% moisture, requiring considerable drying before being placed in storage, and corn test weights were 49-52 lbs./bu. This resulted in very high corn drying costs in 2009, as well as large discounts for moisture and corn quality on 2009 corn that was sold at harvest. In addition, local corn prices for harvest in 2010 are over $1/bu. higher than they were in October 2009. So, even if some corn yields are a bit disappointing, the overall profit from the 2010 corn crop will likely exceed 2009 profit levels for most producers, due to lower corn drying costs, fewer quality discounts and higher corn prices.
Farm Safety Reminder!
Producers are reminded to keep farm safety in mind for their families, their employees and themselves as they finish the 2010 harvest season. Late fall is a key time for farm accidents, due to the shorter day length and the extra stress of trying to finish up fall fieldwork before winter weather conditions arrive. The general public also needs to take extra caution around slow-moving farm machinery and trucks when driving on state and county highways during the late-fall harvest season in farm-country, especially early in the morning and in the late afternoon. Part of that extra caution means staying off cell phones and being attentive to driving on rural roads. A little extra caution can go a long way toward preventing a tragic farm accident or a serious traffic accident on rural highways.
Editor’s note: Kent Thiesse is a former University of Minnesota Extension educator and now is Vice President of MinnStar Bank, Lake Crystal, MN. You can contact him at 507-726-2137 or via e-mail at [email protected]